Interviewer: ‘Gracepoint’ co-star Kevin Zegers on opening the door to suspicion

10.30.14 3 years ago

VICTORIA, BC. The fifth episode of “Gracepoint,” the one airing on FOX this Thursday (October 30) night, features an absolutely dynamic scene between Kevin Zegers and Nick Nolte, exactly the kind of superb acting that's capable of carrying “Gracepoint” even if it remains a nearly beat-for-beat copy of “Broadchurch.” [Two more episodes of similarity before, as promised, things deviate in Episode 7.]

Of course, I didn't necessarily know about the scene or when it would fit into the “Gracepoint” order when I sat down with Zegers in May in a leaky tent next to the British Columbia beach being used to shoot promotional images.

Instead, we talked about the approach Zegers was taking to his character, fledgling journalist Owen Burke, that would make him different from his “Broadchurch” equivalent.” Specifically, Zegers emphasized his willingness to play Owen as a possible suspect in the murder of Danny Solano, making him at least a plausible killer, if not a likely suspect.

When I met with Zegers and co-star Jessica Lucas in May, I'd seen that Nick Nolte scene and we were able to discuss it on video.

So as I did with Michael Peña a few weeks ago, I'm doubling up on Zegers and Lucas interviews this week. 

Above, you can watch the two actors discuss their role and, specifically, the intimidation of Mr. Nolte.

And below, you can read my Q&A with Zegers from the “Gracepoint” set. 

“Gracepoint” airs on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on FOX.

HitFix: So, everyone's going on saying about how different this is from the original, how anyone could be the killer. So could you be the killer?

Kevin Zegers: Yeah. Sure. Yeah. I think everybody could be. We sort of set it up in a way that there's no characters that are sort of eliminated from the possibility. And we've been kind of playing that, because we have the time to get to know these people and sort of see their undercarriage, the underbelly of most of these characters,so I think it's certainly possible that anybody could have done it. But yeah, it's certainly something that I thought about when I read the first script was that I made the assumption that if either could be or might be him.

HitFix: So, if the tenth script comes to you and it turns out it was you, will you be able to sort of understand…

Kevin Zegers: Completely.

HitFix: Okay. And will you be able to rationalize it with what you've done on the nine episodes before?

Kevin Zegers: Yeah. And that was kind of the way that I approached it was I needed to create a scenario in which it would make sense, not just logistically, not just so that they could tell the story and explain it, but in a way that you could of a look back and conceive the way that he reacts to certain things in a way that he could have done it and maybe is either hiding something or… Emotions are tricky because sometimes someone's bashfulness can be misconstrued as shame so there's a lot of that. Thankfully the directors have given us the opportunity to sort of a play things different ways also. So there's options for them in terms of what they use.

HitFix: Well, do you think of that consciously of sort of having different takes on lines just so that the editors have something in their arsenal if they happen to need it?

Kevin Zegers: Yeah. I mean there's very specific scenes where they have done that with me. There's moments where they play out, moments where you go across the room and you see everybody, so they have different – but I just function under the assumption that everyone should seem a little guilty of something.

HitFix: Just because we all do in life or just because everyone in this particular “Gracepoint” world?

Kevin Zegers: Well, I think everybody in every small town has a secret. I think the question is whether the secret is that they killed a kid.

HitFix: But most part not so much.

Kevin Zegers: Right. But I think everyone in general I think is suspicious of everyone when it comes to something affecting them personally. And I think everyone, in different ways, is affected by this personally, so I think immediately, rather than looking within, most people go like, “What the f*** just happened? That guys acting weird, why is he acting weird?” I think that's sort of is an immediate thing that happens. And the audience will probably do the same thing. So they're sort of looking for, not necessarily big things. Like I don't think that it's necessarily finding something out about a character that drives the story, they could be looking into the priest, but the way that other people are reacting to that part of the investigation can be an indication of maybe their involvement; maybe they like that they're looking at somebody else.

HitFix: I've been talking to everyone about sort of that, the difference between playing a character as being a plausible suspect and playing a character as suspicious and sort of how you view that difference and how all of you guys view the difference.

Kevin Zegers: Well, I mean just for me personally, the choices that I make were that his circumstances, previous to you meeting him, would indicate that he could do something like this. He would be the kind of person and have the kind of history that upon finding out that he did do it they would go, “Oh that makes sense now that we know all this stuff.” And it doesn't need to be explained in the show, it doesn't need to be like a narrative part of the show, but it needed to be something that I thought about before starting it, that there are very specific things that you know about Owen in the script that would lend itself to the fact that he had a very bad childhood, that there's some secrets going on in that department that could lend itself to him committing a crime like this, and then you sort of work backwards from there. Then you can sort of do whatever you want as long as that's in the back of your head.

HitFix: How much of that is your own homework? How much of that is stuff that either Chris [Chibnall] or Dan [Futterman] and Anya [Epstein] or who tells you this stuff or are you doing it on your own for your own?

Kevin Zegers: It's something that I think they expected. I think part of what was attractive I think for most of us was the people that they assembled are sort of well-read, kind of experienced actors who were used to doing their homework and would think about things. Listen, Danny and Anya and Chris don't have the time to sort of suss out backstory for every single one of these characters. It would be pointless and not necessarily helpful to us if it was dictated. But I think for me, as for most of us, there needs to be something within ourselves, something that we personally figure out about the character that, again, it doesn't mean that they necessarily committed the crime but I think there needs to be… I never want to look back and think that I didn't give myself the opportunity to just be a vessel for the audience to think that like maybe… you never want to make yourself sort of discarded as a character and I don't think anybody is that way. I think every ones a little bit off.

HitFix: How is your character different from Oliver in the original?

Kevin Zegers: I mean we're sort of diametrically opposite. But I loved it. It was a little to do with him and more sort of…

HitFix: Doing your own thing I assume.

Kevin Zegers: Yeah. And I think that I had a very specific idea, based on the script that I read, before I'd even looked at the show, the British show, of who this guy was. And we talked about it and the guy we came up with just happens to be very different from the sort of eager, doe-eyed guy who's looking for his big break, to this a little more settled and being kind of just living his life the way he lives and surfing and kind of never really having the energy to do the thing that maybe he wanted to do at one point. But he's also not easily led astray. I don't think he's as easy to manipulate. Now that I've watched back you get the sense that he's a little more wise and is not such a pawn in the whole scheme. I think he looks like he could be somebody who's maybe moving the pieces around himself.

HitFix: The character in the British version there's a lot of ambiguity as to whether or not he's actually good at what he's trying to do and whether he actually is a good journalist or whether he could be successful at this. Is your character is he good at what he's doing do you think?

Kevin Zegers: Yes. And I think he's more of the guy who sort of… He didn't give up, but you see that sort of wasted talent and the reason he stays is obviously for his family and he's got some s*** that he has to handle here. But it's less to do would like him really trying to like go out there and make it in the big world and that he doesn't hasn't had his crack yet. I think he's probably one of the characters who the audience will look at and go like, “Why the f*** is he here?” Like the same reaction that a parent would have, like “You've got bigger things to be doing” and he just doesn't quite have that, not the spine, but he just hasn't done it yet. And Renée's character sort of sparks in him a little bit of that, and the situation, I think once it happens I think he sort of feels a responsibility to tell the story but also a responsibility to protect the people that he lives with. So it's a little bit more of an internal struggle than like him just trying to like tell a great story and to be a good reporter.

HitFix: The original character is fairly easily manipulated by Jessica's character, if your character is less manipulatable, how does that change the dynamic between your two characters?

Kevin Zegers: Well, I think there's the possibility that he's manipulating her. I think that it just shifts the dynamic from being a victim. I didn't like the idea that there were any other victims; I think there should be one and everyone else is able to sort of stand on their own two feet. So it really changed the dynamic between her and I, the dynamic between Anna's character and I, the dynamic between Carver and I. He's not somebody who can say like, “F*** off kid,” it's just a little different when someone approaches you with a little bit more of a, “Hey f***er, I know what I'm doing also” and I'm aware of what's going on. He's not so innocent in that sense.

HitFix: Was that there upfront or was it part of the discussions you initially had with them about the character and your own vision?

Kevin Zegers: It was just the way that I read it. And so when I spoke to them about it, again having not seen the other show, that was just the way that I read the first two scripts. It's like as an actor you read something and you sort of have an idea of who he is. And sometimes it's totally wrong and they're like “That's not the way we want to play it,” in which case you either don't do it or you adjust. And I think they liked the idea that if I was going to do it, I would have a hard time playing him as just kind of “Ah shucks”-y. And again, now that I've seen the other show, this is not to take away from what he was doing because I thought he was great, just me doing that would look funny.

HitFix: Does the journalistic instincts match your actorly instinct, the sort of inquisitiveness about human nature, the sort of desire to get answers. Do you find that one sort of correlates with the other in a way that you can understand?

Kevin Zegers: Yeah. And the way that I'm playing the character is much more aligned with the sort of actor that I am. I don't like to talk about it a lot. I think he has good instincts. I think he's much more of an observer than he is a sort of like pound-the-pavement like, “Hey can I ask you this, this, this.” Like I don't think he figures things out as he goes along, I think he's a watcher, which I think helps not just him but I think it helps of the story to sort of have this guy who is looking at everybody the same way that Carver's probably looking at everybody and sort of going like, “That's weird behavior, maybe I should say something about this guy that I'm not. Maybe I'm protecting somebody who I shouldn't be protecting. Maybe I don't know this person as well as I think I do.” But he's able to sort of watch people. And that's the way that I've always approached acting was to sort of – I get much more out of watching people's behavior in certain situations than I do from faking it and practicing a thousand times. It's much more of an organic process for me. So I think that's probably the kind of reporter that he is. I think like he thinks about something for a while and then goes, “Oh s*** that's what's actually going on.”

HitFix: How interesting do you find it to look at this very particular experiment that David Tennant is doing, playing the exact same character with a different name with a different accent?

Kevin Zegers: Yeah. I mean for me I had the same reaction. I was like, “That's crazy.” I thought it was crazy. But having seen I guess theater, not just the circumstances being much different in this show and who did it and the way that the story unfolds being different, he's working with very different people, and so therefore I think he's being challenged by all the people he wasn't in the other show and he's maybe not paying as much attention to other people that he was in the other show. And that's just based on like personal dynamics. Michael Peña is totally different than the guy who played the dad in the other show. So you just inherently look at Michael Peña a little differently. And so I think it's not like he's doing the same show with the same people. And I think because his character is a very much just sort of coming in and going like, “Who are these people?” That's his job is to sort of be the eyes of the audience and go like, “Who's that? Who's that? What's his deal?” He's looking at an entirely different group of people. And so the place is similar and the story sort of goes along the same lines, but the people he's looking at are very different. And the way that he's being able to approach those people is probably very different and therefore the show will seem sort of diametrically just sort of the polar opposite of what the other show was.

HitFix: The way you explained that experiment I guess is sort of a good explanation, does it make you want to do the same thing? Would you think okay, I played this role once, now I would like to play it in the British version where I get to be the exact same character only with British a accent and just slightly change it? Like could you see wanting to do the same thing?

Kevin Zegers: Yeah. I mean if the people I was working with were completely different then yes. Because I think no matter what, for anyone to say that this performance would be the same would just be crazy because he's a good actor and he is a listener. And so when you're listening to one person versus another your reaction is completely different. Maybe he has an affinity towards somebody on this show that he didn't on the other show, or maybe he finds one person more believable than the other? And you can't fake that. So he's very centered in what he's doing, but because he's listening he's not just doing his thing, he's sort of watching what the other people are doing. I think the performance will be totally different, certainly from what I've seen of the other shows and what I've seen him do on this show it's different. 

HitFix: How confident that you know whodunnit?

Kevin Zegers: Not at all. I wouldn't bet a dollar on it.

HitFix: Not even a dollar?

Kevin Zegers: Nope.

HitFix: Huh. Why not?

Kevin Zegers: Because I think it could be like six people.

HitFix: And how anxious are you to find out or excited maybe instead of anxious if you prefer?

Kevin Zegers: Yeah, I'm intrigued. I don't think, unless it's me, I don't think I will find out until the show comes out. I don't think any of us will. I think they're probably just going to shoot the scene with the people who are in it and I don't think they're going to tell anybody about it.

Kevin Zegers: I'd be okay with it.

“Gracepoint” airs on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on FOX.

Around The Web